After 10 games, the Tennessee Titans were 7-3, while the Jaguars were 3-7.
At that point, no one gave the Jaguars much of a chance to win the AFC South, but eight weeks later, the tables have turned.
The Jaguars(9-8) won the AFC south and will make playoffs for the first time since 2017 after defeating the Tennessee Titans 20-16 at TIAA Bank Field on Saturday night to win their fifth straight game.
Tennessee(7-10) finished the season with a seven-game losing streak.
Jacksonville trailed the Titans 16-13 in the fourth, and their defense made the play of the game. DE/OLB Josh Allen scored the first touchdown of his career on a 37-yard fumble return after safety Rayshawn Jenkins’s strip sack of Titans QB Josh Dobbs.
In his first season as Jaguars head coach, Doug Pederson won nine games, the second-most in franchise history by any coach in their first season with the team.
Jacksonville trailed for most of the of the contest, but found a way to win, and according to Pederson, this game epitomized the season for the Jaguars.
“It’s like I told the guys a second ago, that this game tonight kind of symbolizes our season,” Pederson said. “There were some struggles. There were some highs, some lows, but in the end, we had the victory. I’m so proud of the guys for the way they have just all season long just hung together and, you know, through the face of adversity at times and even through some of the high moments, you know, we just stayed the same.”
Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who completed 20-32 passes for 212 yards and a touchdown on Saturday night, said the team kept the faith.
“Just how this year has gone,” Lawrence said. “The ups and downs and just the belief that we’ve had the whole time. You kind of saw it all come together today. And even just how we had to win the game, it wasn’t always pretty, but [we] just found a way to win.”
After the game, Lawrence and Pederson embraced on the field, which Lawrence discussed.
“You know, just told him I loved him,” Lawrence said. “I’m appreciative of him, just what he has done for this place. Obviously, it takes more than just a coach, but what he has been able to do for this organization has been incredible, and just excited for the future. We get another opportunity to play next week. That’s all that means is we get to play again next week, and there’s not many teams that get to say that at this point.”
Pederson won a Super Bowl in 2017 with the Eagles, so he knows what it takes to win at the highest level. According to Pederson, Jacksonville’s 27-20 win over the Raiders in Week 9, where they came back from a 17-0 deficit, was the moment he realized this team was special.
“Listen, we knew that it was going to be about what we did, you know,” Pederson said. “When we turned the ball over, that’s us. When we don’t make tackles, that’s us. When we miss field goals, that’s us, right? It’s about us, and it’s always going to be about us. I think that’s when we realized that, hey, we’ve got a pretty good football team if we could just eliminate those mistakes. We got into the bye. Obviously, you think — go back to the Raider game. You’re down 17 points in that game, and there was no flinch. Really at that moment, I think, is when we realized that this football team is a special team. We can make a run at the end of the year and see what happens.”
Jacksonville’s season would still have been a success if they had lost against the Titans, but they buckled down and got a big win. Now, they get a home playoff game against the Chargers, who they routed in Los Angeles during the regular season, so they have a good shot at advancing in the postseason.